Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Review: Anchor & Hope

I try to do my restaurant reviewing in an organic way.  I mean, I experience the restaurant and food and experience as a regular customer (which I am) and don't go in with a hyper-analytical, hair-splitting eye. I let the experience come to me. I have eaten enough good food around the world and have developed my palate enough to be able to have a good gauge of quality. I don't have to ruin my meal by only examining the quality of every better by everyone at the table. I take the feedback that naturally arises in conversation, couple it with my opinion and if there is enough information gathered, review!

Such was the case last Thursday when I met up with my friend M & S for dinner. Whenever I get the opportunity or make the opportunity to go out to dinner, I try to go someplace I have never been. I snag a lot of items off the 7X7 list of 100 places you need to eat before you die or off our own list of places we want to go or have heard buzz about. For dinner with M&S I suggested a few spots, but could get reservations for none of them, so I suggested Anchor & Hope. Their "Angels on Horseback" were on the 7x7 list and since I haven't eaten a lot of oysters in my life, I figured it would be a fun try!

I made the reservations more than a week in advance and so I felt I had a reasonable expectation of a decent table. Assumption wrong. We were in the worst possible location. A four top at the corner where the walkway from the front door turns to go to the restroom. The same path goes along the bar, so we had bar traffic. And the same path goes to the kitchen, to which we were the most closely seated. There was no safe seat at the table except mine which I procured only because I was the first to arrive. My seat was securely tucked back amongst the other tables. M's seat was on the main walkway, S's seat on the restroom side walkway. The other chair was not safe to inhabit. Both of them got bumped into numerous times. About halfway through the dinner, the hostess came and asked us if she could take the fourth chair from our table to be used elsewhere. M was not impressed by this since there were several empty tables around. Those tables would be occupied by the time we left, but initially, it seemed like an odd move. The restaurant space is beautiful, old warehouse, rustic styling.

But we didn't come to admire architecture (and it was not that admirable anyways), we came to drink wine and eat. The wine list is very extensive and written in the smallest most painful to read type ever. I finally understood how my mom feels when she reads things. It was downright impossible. So I made M decide. He got a crisp, clean, light white. Of a variety I cannot really recall. It was good, but our waiter was never present enough to keep our glasses full. M ended up having to do the majority of the pouring. Which inherently is not bad, but it just furthered the sense of us being in the worst seat in the house. We got paid attention to like second class citizens (until the bill that is).

I insisted we get the "Angels on Horseback", even though none of us was particularly an oyster person. When they came, none of us were impressed. I thought maybe because I can't eat the remoulade sauce that I somehow missed an element, but M insisted the sauce added nothing, having tasted a bit with and without. The bacon was only luke warm, but crisp, and not exactly flavorful. The oysters were fine but not profound either. They were so average that it made me really skeptical about how it ended up on the 7x7 list in the first place.

M ordered the Asparagus salad which were arranged like Lincoln Logs with a Soft-Boiled Egg pearched on the top. Since I am allergic to eggs, we played a game of pick up sticks to see if I could get an asparagus out without breaking the egg. Success. It was a good asparagus. The full salad combination went over with the others and was dubbed successful.

Our main dishes were as varied as we are. M go the spice seared ahi tuna, S got the fish and chips and I got the local sole with nettle puree, parsnips and spring garlic (I think, I can't actually remember anything but the nettle puree and sole). M said his meal was good. S liked her fish and very thick cut chips, which I tasted and agreed were quite delicious. My sole was excellent. It reminded me why I like sole so much. The nettle puree was complex, spicy, a rollercoaster of good flavor. Not nearly enough for for me though. It was a very small portion, which of course I expect at fine-dining restaurants. But usually I don't have to go home after I eat at a restaurant and eat again. And it wasn't even a hard training day and so my appetite was considerably light.

For dessert M&S each got a glass of wine and we tried to enjoy the evening but it just continued to feel like a place we didn't want to linger. Our table, the ambiance, our service did not lend itself to feeling welcome or relaxed. We asked the server for the bill and M and I tried to do math to work out the bill. He put his card on the table and the server swooped in to get it, but we weren't ready as we were still calculating how much cash I was putting down. The only time our server was attentive was with the bill. The bill was not a welcome sight either, $198 for 3 people for what we got seemed a bit steep for what we got. It definitely was not worth that price.

The food was average in general and well below average for that price point. The service was uninspired and the whole experience ended up feeling like, "why did we even bother?" I didn't hate it, no the food was fine. But it was appallingly average.

Anchor & Hope on Urbanspoon

A little bit aloha

I know I promised. Promised to be a good bloggie and post lots of fantastic recipes to have you zooming around the roads and trails and in life. And smacking your lips and rubbing your belly saying, yummmm that was good. But well, I was busy. Busy sitting on that beach in sunny, warm, beautiful Hawaii. I was there for HURT pacing duties for nearly two weeks and it was fantastic. We enjoyed some seriously good eats. Before the race, we cooked a bunch and discovered an absolutely awesome new staple. I can take, well, 0.0% credit for the dish as the Baker made it and I merely prepared it a few times. Coconut Rice. After eating it once with a beautiful piece of fresh fish (one of the many varieties I have never heard or seen before), I couldn't think of anything I wanted more in the world.

Coconut Rice ingredients:

1 cup white rice

2 Hawaiian medium sweet potatoes or 1 large (regular sweet potatoes will do, I guess...if we must)

2 carrots

2-3 jalepenos

1 medium onion

1 can organic thai coconut milk + 1 can water

Coconut Rice directions:

Cut veggies up to bite size pieces. Your choice, not too small though. In a large pot with a lid, bring the coconut milk+ water and vegetables to a boil. Add rice and stir. Reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked and veggies are tender. If you want to get really wild and crazy, do it in a cast iron skillet and after it boils, bake it in the oven until the rice is cooked. You will get good crispy bits on the bottom this way. And we all know the crispy bits are the best.

We enjoyed this meal a lot. It was that good. Hawaiian food is notoriously un-Devon friendly (i.e. gluten, eggs, etc) and not really know for it's healthiness. Before the race, we made the above meal because it was good for ultrarunners stomachs and for its awesome nutritional profile. But after the race...... well that is a different story!

There were fantastic burgers at Kua Aina on the North Shore. I was with 3 post-HURT runners and I don't think there was even a crumb left on the table. They had amazing looking burgers and even though I didn't get a burger, my grilled chicken salad really rocked. I just loved that they put an entire half of avocado on the burgers.

There was also a second trip to Matsumoto Shave Ice on the North Shore. We went on my first full day on the island and got Hawaiian Style shave ice with adzuki beans. So delicious. And we got shrimp and rice from a truck.

After the race we also tried out Morio's Sushi in Wakiki. This sushi place is a natural food grocery by day and a flying under the radar out of this world sushi restaurant by night. It may not be much to look (ok, it is downright ragged looking building) at but the man, Morio himself, was throwing down some amazing food for us. We went 2 times and both times the stuff that was coming over the counter from Morio was amazing and even adventurous (including whole sardines and a natto hand roll). The fish was pretty much straight out of the ocean and every bite was incredible. He was giving hitting us with supreme sushi, brilliant tofu, crab legs! Seriously. It was an experience. Thanks to Gary for the recommendation! Morio's is BYOB and we brought beer, but we could tell we had made it on to his good side when he was giving us shots (ok the bottle) of Shochu. On our second trip, we made sure we brought a case of Morio's beer of choice, which we quickly discovered that all the regulars did. We spent 3-4 hours there each time, chatting, drinking, eating amazing food, digesting, then diving in to more great food. And the price, you just can't beat it.

A final worth mentioning meal was at Helena's Hawaiian Food. I feel that I am always in for a authentic experience when a local waiting for a table next to you ask, "how did you guys find out about this place, we don't get many tourists here?" And it was true, the building was no where near anything touristy and not much to look at. But the food was out of this world. We had Kalua Pig, Laulau, Poi (which I didn't much like), Opihi (on the recommendation of the aforementioned local), Short ribs Pipikaula Style and my personal favorite, Haupia- a delicious coconut milk dessert.

Hmmmmmm, well there you go. A brief recap. Tons of fun in the sun, delicious eats and well, now I have worked up quite the appetite so I am going to throw down some grub!

Helena's Hawaiian Food on Urbanspoon